Website redesigns are fun, creative projects to work on! We want to keep them that way!
This is a great opportunity to breathe new life into your online business, engage with users, and generate more visits and sales! But, it can also be career limiting if you get it wrong by losing hard fought search engine rankings, visits and sales conversions.
That’s why we have put together some tips to help you use Analytics SEO to manage your website redesign projects and to avoid the common pitfalls made during most website re-designs.
Analytics SEO helps you get everything right. It analyses your current site to identify SEO issues that need to be addressed during the redesign process; it checks how well your existing content is indexed in the search engines and it automatically checks your new site and recommends modifications in your new site structure, configuration and content post-launch.
Stage 1 – Planning a Website Redesign
Add your website to Analytics SEO as soon as you can, ideally at least 1 month prior to the project starting. Ensure that you have done the basic setup tasks on Analytics SEO:
· Configure integration with your analytics software (e.g. Google Analytics)
· Configure integration with Google Webmaster Tools (ensure you create an account if you don’t have one already)
· Undertake keyword research and setup the keywords you want to monitor and target URLs for your most important keywords and URLs
· Setup brand filters – so you can see progress in branded vs non-branded organic traffic
Stage 2 – Take Important Benchmarks
Analytics SEO will track everything automatically and create useful benchmarks for you. You don’t really need to do anything as you can always interrogate the software to look at something retrospectively (e.g. Page Load Time over time).
Here are some examples of really useful metrics that are taken at the start of a website redesign project and can be used to gauge how successful this website redevelopment project has been:
· No. of Pages Crawled by the Analytics SEO spider.
· No. of Pages Indexed in Google, Yahoo and Bing (you can configure which country versions of the search engines you want to track in the site setup.
· Organic Breadth & Depth – Tracking the number of pages generating organic traffic and the number of keywords generating organic search traffic over time is a good way of showing the progress of your website redesign project and SEO campaign. After the re-launch of a well optimised new website you would normally expect to see growth in both the number of indexed pages that are generating organic visits and the quantity of organic keywords generating those visits (i.e. more long tail keywords).
· Organic Traffic – What does your month-on-month organic traffic look like and what is the split of branded vs non-branded terms? For a typical SEO campaign the system will automatically request 90 days of analytics data, however for a website redesign project I like to pull in at least 1 year’s (2 year max) data so I can take account of any seasonal fluctuations.
This is such an important benchmark as it allows you to see whether your new site is generating an increase in new non-branded visitors than your old site. After launch, you may typically see a short spike in branded terms which is normal considering most companies do some PR or email their client base following a redesign.
· Backlinks – How many links do I have to my old site from how many unique domains? If you have this benchmark then you can easily see whether the new site is getting any coverage and is attracting new links?
· Keyword Rankings – Clearly you will want to know whether you are maintaining those hard fought search engine rankings post-launch and more importantly whether the right URLs on the new site are ranking for the expected keywords. If you have setup target URLs for your keywords prior to the redesign then you can quickly see which URLs are ranking in the SERPs for which keyword phrases. Clearly, this can be a massive job across very large sites, so it’s really worth doing for your most important money pages.
· Keyword Ranking Summaries – For large sites the Keyword Ranking Summary table gives you a quick snapshot of how you rank by search engine for branded and non-branded keywords and how this has changed since your new site went live.
Any movement up or down in any of these metrics immediately post-launch can alert you to issues with the new website. For example, a large unexpected increase in the number of pages indexed or crawled may be due to your new Content Management Systems (CMS) spitting out duplicate or near duplicate pages.
Stage 3 – Set Targets for Improvement in Organic Traffic & Other Metrics
If you have configured integration with your website analytics software then you can set and manage your performance of your new website against these targets. Simply specify a target timeframe and a goal for any one of 3 key metrics from your analytics software.
· Average Page Views per Visit
· Average Time on Site(s)
· Bounce Rate
· Brand Engagement
· E-commerce Revenue
· E-commerce Transactions
· Goal Conversions
· Goal Revenue
· New Visits
· Page Views
· Pages Bringing Traffic (%)
· Organic Visits
You will then be able to see at a glance how well you are doing across these key indicators of your success.
Stage 4 – Review Technical Issues with the Old Site & the New Site once launched
The Analytics SEO platform will monitor these key technical issues daily. This is especially helpful as it can give you an idea of the issues that you need to address in a site re-design project prior to briefing your website agency. You can then get a report on the day your new site goes live to ensure everything has been addressed.
· Page Load Time versus your competitors is the new site as fast or slower?
· Robots.txt (Have your developers left in the temporary block on Google that they put in when the site was in development – Yes, we’ve seen it happen…even on major sites)
· HTML sitemap(s) – is it still accessible?
· XML Sitemap(s) – is it still accessible?
· 301 and 302 Redirects – by tracking this you can automatically see if there is an increase in temporary 302 redirects which will cost you valuable link equity.
· Dead links – 4XX Errors – Sometime when content changes links get lost, especially if the old website was using relative URLs rather than full URLS for links (e.g. /blog rather than http://authoritas.com/blog). This is a common problem and by automatically spidering your site the software can quickly alert you to any issues that can be quickly fixed in your content or internal link structure.
· Server Errors – 5XX Errors – This can alert you to any issues that may prevent users or search engines accessing your site and is particularly useful if you have changed the configuration of your web server(s) or moved to a new web server during the redesign.
· Friendly URLs – It’s important to make those URLs nice and user and search engine friendly; the software will spot any URLs that don’t meet expected web standards
· Custom 404 – Do you have a nice friendly error pages in case there are some orphaned internal or external links?
Stage 5 – Review Content Issues with the Old Site & the New Site once launched
Again by spidering your old site prior to a re-launch, any content issues that the marketing team or external agency need to remedy can be identified and included in the plan. Analytics SEO spiders your site once a week, so if you want a re-crawl on the day you go live then simply raise a support ticket. Here are some of the content issues that you might want to consider:
· Meta Data – The software can automatically track issues with the Meta data on your old site or new site, so you can fix it during the redesign process or once the new site is live. You can look for Title tags and descriptions at URL level that are Duplicate, Missing, Too Short or Too Long. This also helps you find duplicate content issues.
· Pages with Low Text Count – Ever since Google’s Panda update in 2012, pages with thin content have been penalised in the SERPs. This tool will track the word count on all your site’s pages.
· Outbound Links – Linking to poor quality sites can have a detrimental impact on your search engine rankings and can be a common issue for sites with Forums (ensure the majority of these links are “no-followed”). By spidering your site and identifying all external links you can review these links from time to time. It is not uncommon for web designers to sneak in site wide links to their sites without asking!
· Review Un-indexed Pages – This is likely to change materially with any new website launch. The tool checks every single URL against each search engine to see whether it is indexed or not. This is an extremely intensive report to run (and it is normally run once a month) so if you would like it run shortly after your new site launch then please raise a support ticket.
· Missing Image Alt Tags – It is sensible to add relevant keywords in the Alt tags on every image on your site as this has a minor impact on your on-site optimisation. Normally, a lot of images will change during a redesign project. If your designers have missed this in your site redesign then this report will show you which images and URLs need attention.
Stage 6 – Continue to Track post-launch
So once the new site has been completed and launched, simply login and check your reports every now and then. You can also configure the system to send you a custom report containing just your campaign benchmarks so you can track progress against target and your starting point with the old website.
N/B: If you are also changing domains during the redesign process
If you are changing domains then you will need to notify Google Webmaster Tools and implement 301 redirects from the old URL to the new URL. Try and avoid mass re-directing old URLs to a single page as this dilutes the spread of link equity that you have built up with the search engines.
I hope that you’ll have found this post useful – if you have any questions or feedback please get in touch.
By: Laurie OToole
CEO and founder of Authoritas. Entrepreneur, SEO and golfing enthusiast!